Sleuths on suffrage mission

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”Detectives” from the Ashburton District Family History Group are on the case – helping to hunt information on people who signed the 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition.

A member of the group, Lynne Armstrong, said the Ministry of Culture and Heritage had uploaded images of the petition to its website, nzhistory.govt.nz and had also created an index of signatories to make it easier to read the petition.

The ministry’s goal is to collect “as many biographies of these signatories as possible” and it wants the public to help.

The family history group decided it would be a worthwhile project, and also want the public’s help.

There are more than 600 names of women from the Ashburton district whose names appear on the petition.

“If you know your womenfolk signed the petition, or if you are not sure they did, go to the ministry’s website where you can find all the “details you need,” Mrs Armstrong said.

The group would display a copy of the petition and the ministry’s index covering the district in its room in the Ashburton Art Gallery and Museum building on West Street.

“Come in and see if you can help us identify the signatures, as many of them are just initials and surnames.

“Our library hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 1pm to 4pm, and “Saturday 10am to 1pm.

“If you would like our help on how to find information on your womenfolk, our duty librarians will be happy to assist you. Usually we charge $10 an hour to assist non-members of our group, but for August we are offering our help free of charge in regard to this petition.”

Even if the women did not live in Ashburton, the librarians could help.

This year is the 125th anniversary of women’s “suffrage in New Zealand. On September 19, 1893, the Electoral Act was passed, giving all women in New Zealand the right to vote.

Kate Sheppard was the most prominent member of the women’s suffrage movement in New Zealand, and the researchers found she visited Ashburton to publicise the cause.